By PFC Brian GlassMarch 12, 2010
CAMP W.G. WILLIAMS, Utah - Infantry Soldiers from 4th Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division, participated in a squad live-fire exercise while training in the snowy, mountainous terrain of Camp W.G. Williams, Utah, Feb. 18.
The Soldiers involved in the live-fire exercise are assigned to Company A, 2nd Battalion, 4th Infantry Regiment. Before the Infantrymen began running through the lanes performing live-fire tasks, however, each squad walked through the course to practice movements and adjust to the unfamiliar terrain. With snow falling hard and fast as the event progressed, the live fire proved to be a challenge for the Soldiers from CO. A.
"It was pretty rough out there," said Pvt. Ryan Watkins, an Infantryman assigned to Co. A. "To pick my feet out of the snow to take the next step, it takes more out of me (physically than I am used to)."
The depth of the snow, length of the range and type of terrain made for an ideal training environment for leaders to train Soldiers for their upcoming deployment to Afghanistan. This combination created conditions under which they wouldn't normally get the chance to train.
"There is no matching this terrain at Fort Polk," said Command Sgt. Maj. Steven Womack, brigade command sergeant major for 4th BCT, 10th MTN DIV. "There are less distractions here, putting the focus on the training at hand."
After receiving a mandatory safety briefing, the Soldiers geared up and went through the lanes with live rounds to engage targets as they moved a squad. Having the opportunity to walk the lanes first gave the Soldiers an extra boost of confidence.
"It was easier the second time after going through it earlier," said Pvt. Mickey Sakounkhou, infantrymen from Co. A. "We stayed together as a team, (and) the movements were pretty good."
As Soldiers negotiated the live-fire lanes, the sun pushed out and appeared to melt the top surface of snow, adding a higher degree of difficulty to the training. With the changing conditions came a faster pace, and the Soldiers pushed through with a lot of things coming at them at once.
"With the adrenaline flowing, it is easy to forget how hard the snow is," said Watkins. "The sun was a mirage with the snow, (and) made it look softer than it really was on top. It was really hard to get through."
Teamwork was a key to success as the squads went through the lanes and Soldiers engaged their targets. After all, it is always good to get a little help from your friends.
"I went into a full-on run then jumped in the air (and) landed on my back to flatten out the snow," said Spc. Francisco Rivera. "I had to clear the area around (us) so he (Pvt. Davidson) could come up with the (M) 240B (machine gun) and engage his target."
The snow was knee deep on some of the Soldiers and ankle high on others. Maneuvering with live rounds in these conditions made safety the main concern for the Infantrymen running through the lanes.
"Safety is very important out here," said Watkins. "(You have) got to be certain to keep your weapon downrange and to not run in front of anybody."
The 2nd Bn., 4th Inf. Soldiers have been training at Camp Williams for more than a week. This event gave leaders a good idea about where everyone stands and the progress they have made.
"The course is very physically challenging," said Capt. Jason Shick, commander of Co. A. "It shows what terrain like this can do to Soldiers. Their movements have gotten a lot faster."
The Soldiers realize they are improving as well. They have noticed changes in themselves since beginning their off-post training at Camp Williams.
"The newness of being here has worn off," said Watkins. "The guys are starting to gel; this is good preparation for Afghanistan."
A majority of the Soldiers training here in Utah are new to the unit or have not ever deployed to Afghanistan. The progress they are achieving now will help them when they go downrange and as they further prepare for the fight to come.
"This realistic training is supposed to be very challenging; to push the Soldiers places they haven't been," said Womack.